December 27, 2004
Driving into Denver today, you could see a heavy yellow cloud hovering just over the buildings. It stretched for miles in every direction, butting right up against the beautiful mountainsides that line the city to the west. Having never been to LA or your beloved Houston, I have never seen pollution like this--so thick and close and visible it looked like you could reach up and touch it, your hand blistering from coming in contact with the noxious yellow fog. I made a joke about needing gas masks when we got out of the car.
We were making the trip down to visit family in a suburb south of Denver, one of many that sprawl forever across the southeastern plains; suburbs that spring up fully formed in a matter of minutes, the cookie-cutter housing developments hemmed in by strip malls and glass-walled low-rise office buildings. The growth in this area is stunning in its speed and its uniformity, Mr. Bush, and every new Chilis that gets built, every new field that gets cleared for another subdivision, every new health club that opens--and every massive SUV that gets parked in the acres of shining parking lots or pulled into a brand-new three-car garage---contributes to the thick gas that floats just overhead.
The people that live here pride themselves in their breathtaking vistas, their clear, cold springs, their awe-inspiring mountains; they spend more time outdoors than anyone I have ever known. That they are poisoning themselves and their children with every mile they drive, every 24-hour super-store they build, every vacation home in the mountains they heat, seems stubbornly counterintuitive to me.
But in a way, I suppose it makes sense. I mean, why else buy a car so massive and heavy it gets 10 miles to the gallon, why else live in a home with vaulted ceilings lined with marble and grand staircases, why else obsess over sports and contests and winning, than in order to deny your own mortality? Isn't all of this--the grandeur, the speed, the scale--just a way of cheating the death that looms above, just out of reach; a death that has been formed out of the very things built to avoid it?